Sentimental journey in ornaments

Decking the halls is what I am all about this and every holiday season. Most of you know by now that the outside of my house is decorated but the inside is just as festive. I love the bold, bright colors of green and red paired with Santas, elves and snowmen.
I have plates, cups and all kinds of serve-ware displayed on my shelves. But the best and most meaningful decorations in my house are the ornaments. I am an ornament collector, especially Hallmark ornaments. But I don’t just buy them because they are cute. Most of them have a nostalgic and sentimental value to me and because of that my trees are extra special.
First, Mama has been giving me a silver plated Wallace sleigh bell every year for Christmas since 1972. I always wondered why I didn’t have one for 1971, which was the year I was born, and Mama said she just didn’t get the idea until the next year. So that put me on a mission. Where to find this 1971 Wallace Bell? Ebay of course but low and behold I found out that it was the first year the bell was made and the resale price was a little hefty for my budget.
After a lot of searching for a long time, someone sold one that wasn’t as expensive as the rest. So Mama bought it and gave it to me for my birthday. So now I have a complete set and they all hang on a pencil tree in my house with silver glittered snowflakes and icicles. That is my Mama tree. In fact I was thinking the other night that when, and God forbid no time soon, something happens to my Mama I will stop getting these bells. I want to know that those bells where given to me by my Mama and no one else. It will always be my Mama tree.
Crawford has a tree in his room that has all the ornaments he has made in school and ones he received when he was a baby. It is a beautiful tree filled with all things Crawford.
I have a tree in my den that is black, white and red and decorated with Mary Engelbriet ornaments, She is my favorite illustrator. It is fun and whimsical and makes me happy.
At the front door is our character tree. It is filled with characters that David, Crawford and I love, everything from Mickey to Snoopy, Barney to Ninja Turtles and everything in between. It brings memories of the phases we all go through in life watching different television shows.
The Big tree in my dining room window has got many, many memories on it. I have ornaments on it that I made as a kid. Ornaments hang that belonged to my Mimi and David’s mother. Destinations are marked by ornaments showing places I, or members of my family, have traveled.
Friends are marked on my tree also. I have an ornament that Krista Shumpert cross-stitched for me when we were kids that has two snails on it and says, “best friends.” I have ornaments that say Delta Delta Delta that remind me of the awesome group of girls that I had near me during my time at Delta State. Out of those girls are my three roommates that are commemorated on my tree. Amy, Renae and Alicia will be my forever friends even if we don’t see each other but on rare occasions.
Stages of my life are reflected in this tree. Of course my childhood is on there and then there is an ornament for my wedding and our honeymoon. There are several on this big tree for having my baby and two other for the babies that went to Heaven.
When I get old and gray, Crawford will have a lot of Christmas memories that he will treasure just from those things we have already. We all look forward to finding each memory as we decorate. It is part of what my Christmas decorating is about.

Caroline Laster is an employee of The Bolivar Commercial. She may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Reflect during this special season

I have been watching some of my favorite Christmas movies the past two weeks. Great movies. Movies like It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. Movies that remind us of who we SHOULD be and how we SHOULD live our lives.

For instance, it would be nice to be able to look back at our life and hopefully see we made an impact on others. A positive impact on our family, on our friends, on our work place, and on our community.

We all want to feel that we have value, to be significant. To feel that others value us as well. To feel that in some small way, we have made a difference. We want to be George Bailey, like he was portrayed in It’s A Wonderful Life.

Or, we wish we could have a second chance, like Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. We can, if we honestly examine ourselves today and be determined to fix our flaws, determined to change for the better, determined to help others.

Look at George Bailey. I wish I was more like George Bailey. He always put the needs of his family and his community ahead of his own desires. I have that desire to put my needs behind the needs of others, but I cannot say I always accomplish it. In the movie, George has some opportunities to leave his town of Bedford Falls and travel the world, but he always made the decision to stand by his community and his principles.

Now, let’s look at Ebenezer Scrooge. Are we guilty of some of his choices he made in his life? As Scrooge did, are we not guilty of maybe getting disconnected from our own pasts as we grow older and maybe focus too much on our work? Do we sometimes forget the people and the things that were the most important to us when we were younger? Do we shield ourselves from the needs of others, losing our compassion because there are so many people and organizations asking for help?

When we see the commercials from the Red Cross for aid to Houston because of flooding, or the request for donations to help the tragedy in Las Vegas, or the images by the Humane Society of animals in danger, do we get numb to all of the pain and needs in the world? Do you look the other way, or speed up when you see a person standing by the road with a sign asking for help?

I have been in Cleveland for five years. I must admit I have seen some Scrooges since I have been here, but every town has some Scrooges. But I have seen many, many more George Baileys since I have been here I am proud to say. It never amazes me how our County rises to the occasion, responding to the needs of others, often at the expense of one’s own needs.

I see hundreds of families bring canned goods, toys and desserts for Helping Hands and the Bolivar County Sheriff’s Department. I have seen our students at Bayou Academy give of their time and their money when a classmate has lost her home and all of her possessions in a fire. I know that students in the Cleveland School District have done the same in similar situations.

I am glad people assist Helping Hands because, to be honest, there is no need for anyone to go hungry in Cleveland. God has blessed this community, and as long as we are faithful to serve, honor and obey Him, He will continue to do so.

Let me get my thoughts of the Grinch out of the way now because I want this article to make people feel positive and happy that we can make our New Year a better one for us, but most importantly, for others. And trust me, I have more to work on than anyone else I know to be a better person, so I am not trying to point out other’s faults-I have more than enough of my own. But, I do see some mistakes great people and great parents make.

First, it is ok if your child does not make straight A’s. In fact, if all of the parents who wanted their children to make straight A’s did, I can guarantee you we would not be teaching. Sometimes, the B or even the C your child gets is ok, especially if it was the best he or she could do. Some subjects, we just cannot master, that is life. We are not perfect, including your child.

I wish parents would not ask if the teacher or the school could help their child improve their grade sometimes. Believe it or not, we all procrastinate, get lazy, or just do not give our best effort. To try and cover that up by giving the child extra credit or another opportunity never lets that situation become a learning situation. There are consequences when we do not give our best. The best thing we can teach our children and each other is to give our best effort, at all times, in all things. And when we do not give our best effort, accept the consequences, but be determined to do better the next time. That is good advice for all of us, children or adults.

Lastly, why do calm, intelligent people, who are kind and generous, change at sporting events? I have witnessed people who never raise their voice in their daily life yell and scream at umpires or referees. It is like Jekyll and Hyde. But it is not good when referees have to warn us to be quiet, and I know that some of our children wish we would not act like that. Also, it never really makes a referee or umpire decide to make a different call because we are yelling at them.

I am sad to admit some parents would rather lose a game as long as their child does well. What lesson are we teaching a child to say that it does not matter if you win the basketball game, it is more important that you score a lot of points, score a touchdown, have 15 tackles or score a goal instead.

I think that there would be a lot less Grinch in us, if we just closed our eyes and saw nothing but ourselves and how we look and who we are. God blinded Paul for three days. Think about that, for three days Paul could see nothing. All he could see eventually was deep inside himself. When he finally saw himself and the way he was, he knew he needed to change and to be a different person. Our inner mirror never lies when we really look only at ourselves.

But back to the good things in life. Remember a great line Cary Grant spoke in the movie The Bishop’s Wife. He said, “The truly happy people are the ones who live life here on earth as if they were in heaven.” These are the people who see the brightness of the moon at night, and the countless stars. They see that the greatest gift they can give to others is their time, their kindness, their concern and their love. They look for ways to help, rather than ways to avoid being asked. These people, and there are so many I have come to know, open their eyes and then open their hearts. They want to serve, rather than be served.

These people understand failure. Failure finds us all at some time. These people did not let failure define them, or weigh them down. Who knows what failure, or in my case, failures, happened to them? Maybe a lost job, a failed school test, maybe dropping out of college, a failed marriage, a lost opportunity, or a grave sin? But these people who have been able to not be a Scrooge also decided not to let failure prevent them from a living a better life. These people did not sentence themselves to a life of misery. Instead, they learned from the mistakes of yesterday, and gave their best effort today to do right, and prayed that they will do even better tomorrow. They know that there is no future in the past. They moved forward, most under God’s plan, desiring to make things better for everyone.

I pray each of you has a blessed holiday season and that the New Year will bring you what you are asking for, but please remember when you take the children around to see the beautiful new Christmas lights that adorns Main Street and the area homes, that the Christmas lights are to remind us of the TRUE light- the light of Jesus Christ. And, that we should reflect that light within us always for others to see.

Dr. David Granville is Headmaster of Bayou Academy


The Grinch stole our Christmas

On Tuesday a horrible situation occurred at my house and apparently around the neighborhood too. Someone came into our yard and took our Christmas Darth Vadar inflatable. They took the stakes and all. How dare you!

Well, I am sure that some of you think it doesn’t matter because we have so many others ones in our yard. I am here to tell you that my son is very proud of each of his blowups. He can tell you who bought each one for him and for what occasion. His grandmother gave Darth to him on his eighth birthday.

On the way home from school, David told him what he had discovered that day. After the announcement was made, he was just quiet. Then he told his daddy that he was kidding him. But David had to tell him the truth and by the time they got home Crawford was a little worked up about it.

He hopped quickly out of the truck and over to the space where Darth Vadar used to stand. Small tears fell from his eyes to his cheeks, as his heart broke in that moment, but he quickly stopped and sucked it up so that his daddy wouldn’t see him upset. Crawford’s heart was broken and David’s was too, especially seeing how sad his son was.

As the afternoon progressed, I began to read on Facebook and texts that other people in my neighborhood had Christmas things stolen or vandalized. At that point I did call the police. Earlier I had decided not to call for just a small item. But I called just to let them know what was going on in my neighborhood. The officer was very nice and even complimented us on our decorations. He said that he would make others aware of the issue.

Some say it was probably a college kid doing pranks, but I really don’t care who is doing all this. In my eyes they are a green and nasty Grinch with ugly, yellow piercing eyes. The Grinch has attacked my little Whoville ... and well ... I don’t appreciate it. The only thing that came from this is my son learned a lesson of how cruel people can be.

Crawford’s theory is that they got Darth Vadar because of the area of the yard he was in and that Darth is really cool. He also decided that they didn’t touch the Nativity because it would have been really bad to steal baby Jesus. I tend to agree.

At this point, I wish this thief would just bring our inflatable back. You have taken joy from my family, my son and the whole community. You have upset others in our neighborhood that you stole from as well. That is so not in the spirit of what the season is for. My husband and son work tirelessly to make our little corner of Cleveland festive and fun.

I do realize that in the grand scheme of life’s journey this is not a big deal. I realize that my emotions are on my sleeve because it happened to my child. I also know that I don’t like bad things to happen at Christmas. All this together has put me on my soapbox and it just burns me up that someone would do that especially this time of year.

The other side of me is just trying to calm the angry side down and move forward to have a great holiday. I think that will show my son that you can rise above adversity in life even as small as this was. So I say to my fellow Cleveland Whos, enjoy every great part of this holiday ... Help one another and those in need and let our hearts remember what this season is truly all about.

Caroline Laster is an employee of The Bolivar Commercial. She may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Time changes everything

The life cycle is never ending and there is nothing we can do to stop it. The change is never more apparent than when my family gets together for Thanksgiving.

I still think of myself as the child that watched my grandmother, Aunt Pat and Mama in the kitchen trying to be sure that everything was just perfect for our meal. Me, Robert, Tara and Gina played outside to stay out of the way but we would go visit Big Daddy at the store to see what he was doing. As long as we weren’t driving the ladies in the kitchen crazy then we were good.

There were limited channels on the television since we were out in the country and just had an antenna on the roof. I would be willing to bet it would be some sort of football game on it and there would be someone watching it, just not me.

We four kids sat on stools like stair steps at the kitchen table to eat. Mimi didn’t have enough chairs for everyone so the grandchildren each had their own stool. Our mothers fixed our plates and Mimi didn’t make us eat anything we didn’t like. We watched the grownups fill their plates while we ate. Everyone was happy and thankful to be together.

Time has morphed us. Mimi and Big Daddy are gone now. So is Aunt Pat. The four cousins became adults somewhere along life’s journey and we have children of our own.

So Thanksgiving changed with time. Now we have our dinner at my Mama’s. She makes some of the meal but we all bring dishes so the burden isn’t on one person. It makes a very blessed dinner buffet because we always have too much food.

Mama has Christmas decorations out already except for the tables, which have great Thanksgiving themed centerpieces. Now we all make sure our children are fed, which puts us in the back of the buffet line.

We say the prayer before we all serve plates and the dinner commences. Our kids are usually too excited to eat much. They just want to play together. Mama and my Uncle Brother usually fall into conversation about people they have known from Shaw and Shaw High School and the four cousins and spouses talk about anything and everything.

This will continue for a while until the last person is finished and slowly the table is cleared. As the dishes migrate to the kitchen sink, the family moves its separate ways. The younger kids go outside while the older kids have their heads bowed to their cell phones. The men are watching a ballgame in the den but mostly snoring since their bellies are so full.

Mama, Gina, Tara and I stay in the kitchen and clear what we can before getting all the desserts out. We cut the pies and cakes and enjoy them leisurely while we discuss our kids. Eventually the others come in for their dessert as well.

Sometimes while sitting at Mama’s table, I wonder, “How did I get here?” and “Where did the time go?” I feel no different than when I was a little girl waiting to eat Thanksgiving pasta, turkey and dressing. I am that same kid who watched the traffic in the kitchen and dreamed of being grown and getting to participate.

Now I do participate but somehow it doesn’t seem as much fun as I anticipated, not because it is work but because there are people missing. My world isn’t the same without my Mimi and Aunt Pat. It would be so great to share my adult experience with them but I will be thankful for the time I was given.

Instead, this year I will focus on the present and not the past. I will be thankful for all the blessings I have in my life. I will even be thankful for being the adult that a kid once longed to be. The journey will continue.

Caroline Laster is an employee of The Bolivar Commercial. She may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Let’s love our brothers and sisters

Our siblings.

They may be the first people that irritate us or bug the crap out of us or we may be the first people to bug or irritate the crap out of them. Some of our most heated arguments are with our brothers and sisters, but many times they're also the first people to have our backs when the going gets tough. 

Our relationships with our brothers and sisters are extremely important. They're part of our immediate family, our blood kin. For many people, their best friends are their siblings. 

Another thing that siblings do is they compete with each other. There are times when one wants to out do the other. These can be healthy competitions that make each one better, but one thing that doesn't need to happen is the emergence of jealousy and resentment. One person might excel at something more than the other and the parent or parents might brag or talk about that person just a little more. 

Sometimes, a sibling can make a rivalry out of something that's not. A person might take their mom or dad bragging on the other sibling the wrong way and let that build into a grudge or an axe to grind. The person doing well might not even be trying to compete with you, but you let the gloating on that person get to you causing you to take your frustrations out on them. 

As frustrating as it is when you think you're pushed to the side, it's important to remember your family is still your family. Mom and dad may boast about one sibling while being hard on you but what they really want is for you to try your best and succeed at whatever you do. When we're young, we're still trying to find our way and we tend to not see our faults and our shortcomings. We need to feel good about ourselves but realize there are things we can improve on. We need to strive to improve every day. 

Also, the sibling that we might end up resenting due to all the rivalry stuff needs our love. They need our support. We need to step back and take a long hard look at the whole situation. A person that's working hard and doing well doesn't need our disdain, they need our love and loyalty. Instead of letting envy fill our existence, we need to put more effort into our lives and working on our relationships with our brothers and sisters. 

We need to be careful about what we say and do to our brothers and sisters through out our lives. Our actions and words will either help or hurt more than we can ever imagine. 

Have a great holiday season everyone and lets show the love to our family. 

Andy Collier is the sports editor of The Bolivar Commercial. He may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.